Hamas senior leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, center
JERUSALEM – It was Jimmy Carter, not Hamas, who first requested a meeting scheduled for today with the terrorist group’s two most senior leaders in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, told WND.
“Carter was the one who asked Hamas for the meeting. It was arranged yesterday in his meeting with [Hamas official in the West Bank city of Ramallah Nasser] Shaer,” said Barhoum, speaking from Gaza.
Carter also is scheduled to meet in Cairo with senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud al-Zahar and Saeed Seyam, who are identified by both Israeli and Palestinian security officials as the two most senior leaders of Hamas’ so-called military wing, which carries out terrorist activities from the Gaza Strip, including rocket strikes, suicide bombings, border raids, kidnappings and shooting attacks.
Al-Zahar, the chief of Hamas in Gaza, is leader of Hamas’ most radical wing and is widely regarded as chief of the terror group’s “military wing.” He served as the foreign minister in the Hamas-led Palestinian government, which was disbanded last year. Israeli officials say al-Zahar is more radical than Khaled Meshaal, Hamas’ overall chief, who resides in Syria and is scheduled to meet with Carter later this week.
At a rally in March last year, al-Zahar told a crowd of thousands that Hamas’ short-term goal is “to liberate Palestine. Our final goal, which will be achieved, is that Islam will enter every house and will spread all over the world.”
Seyam, who served as Hamas’ interior minister, oversees Hamas’ so-called Executive Force, the group’s main militia. Seyam was one of the main architects of Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip last June, when the terror group expelled the U.S.-backed Fatah organization, overtaking all Fatah security compounds and reportedly seizing American weapons.
Carter is due to meet al-Zahar and Seyam today after Israel turned down his request to enter the Gaza Strip, where the two senior Hamas leaders live.
Al-Zahar and Seyam departed the Gaza Strip and are driving toward Cairo, Hamas sources confirmed.
Barhoum told WND Hamas sees Carter’s visit as “very important.”
“It will help break the siege against us and help Hamas be accepted by the political leadership and public opinion in the U.S,” he said.
Yesterday, while visiting the West Bank, Carter attended a reception with the senior Hamas leader Shaer. The reception was closed to the media, but according to participants and the Hamas leader, Carter hugged Shaer and kissed him on each cheek, the customary greeting for good friends. Many U.S. diplomats refrain from kissing Palestinian officials.
“He gave me a hug. We hugged each other, and it was a warm reception,” Shaer told the Associated Press. “Carter asked what he can do to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israel … and I told him the possibility for peace is high.”
Shaer previously served as deputy prime minister and education minister in the Hamas-led Palestinian government, which was toppled last year. He served time in Israeli prison after being charged with terrorist activities.
According to Israeli security officials, Shaer functioned as a financial and communications link between cells of the Hamas organization in Gaza and in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
In a WND exclusive interview earlier this week, Ahmed Yousuf, Hamas’ top political adviser in the Gaza Strip, called Carter a “noble person” whose planned meeting with Hamas would help the terror organization “engage with the world community.”
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